A group of Moorestown residents who promote inclusion and diversity in the community will offer two free workshops Saturday for children and teens to learn how to deal with bullies.
The MooreUnity workshops at Perkins Center for the Arts are funded through a grant by the Moorestown Rotary Lunch Club. Participants will practice how to summon the courage for standing up to bullying and unkind behavior by using role play, games and improvisation.
MooreUnity co-Founder Karen Reiner explained details of a similar workshop for adults in October 2020.
“Through improv and role play, we practiced different scenarios … Everybody who came said it was fabulous and they all said, ‘We wish we had learned and practiced this as children,’” she said. “So that inspired the idea to bring the therapist back to do a workshop for young children and a workshop for teens.”
“Ultimately, our goal is that people will have the courage to be upstanders instead of bystanders,” Reiner added, “and they’ll find ways to communicate with the person who’s done the offensive action in a way that that person will accept it as a teachable moment and will actually be likely to change their behavior in the future.”
The workshops will be run by drama therapist Natalie Slaughter, who has a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling with a specialty in drama therapy.
“Drama therapy is something that’s used with a lot of different age groups,” Slaughter noted. “It can be used all the way from preschool all the way up to the elderly, and it’s used in a lot of different settings. It can be used in schools; it can be used in hospitals … It’s just anything you would learn from being in theater.”
“Anybody who uses drama therapy gets to see their own experience kind of played back to them,” she added. “It can give a lot of validation and comfort depending on the setting you’re working with drama therapy in, but that’s where the therapeutic part comes into it as well.”
Slaughter described what participants can expect from the two workshops.
“Both of them (the workshops) are going to be about what it means to be an upstander, someone who’s going to stand up for themselves and also stand up for other people when they see them being treated unfairly,” she said. “ … In the workshop(s), we’ll do a few fun icebreaker activities to kind of get them into the movement and the drama part of the workshop (and) make them comfortable.”
“When the kids feel kind of comfortable with that, then our main chunk of the workshop is going to be really setting up these scenes and acting them out,” Slaughter added. I’ll have plenty of examples, but I’d love to use examples from the kids, especially in the older age range.”
Slaughter maintained there is a difference between working with children and teens.
“(The) younger kids are going to see it probably as how to stand up to a bully or how to stand up to somebody who’s not treating them fairly in school or on a sports team,” she offered. “Whereas I think that the older kids can take it a step further. We might be talking about how to stand up to racism, how to stand up to sexism … because these are things that teenagers are already seeing today in school and in the media.”
“I think the biggest difference is that anybody participating in that teen workshop may really be taking it a step further into those deeper issues.”
Workshop hours are 10 a.m. to noon for kids in first through sixth grade, and 2 to 4 p.m. for students in seventh through 12th grade. Register at mooreunity.com.